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Public Lands and the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show

Photo Credit Tim Peterson

Since 1989, The Conservation Alliance has participated in the Outdoor Retailer trade shows, held for the past 20 years in Salt Lake City. The shows have provided an important opportunity for us to meet with our members, share news about our conservation efforts, and work to integrate a conservation ethic into the fabric of the outdoor industry.

Though Utah is home to some of our most spectacular public lands, the state’s elected officials have demonstrated a shocking disregard for these wild places, and the powerful economic benefits they provide. Utah’s Congressional delegation, Governor, and legislature are pushing for dramatic changes to our public lands system that would diminish these places that are so important to our member companies, their employees, and their customers. The disconnect between our industry’s shared commitment to protecting public lands, and Utah’s disdain for those lands is untenable. Some of our members are directly responding to this discord by ending their participation in Outdoor Retailer show until it moves to a different state, or Utah’s elected officials change their position on public lands. Others will continue to exhibit at the show. Each position is a valid expression of concern for our public lands. The Conservation Alliance will continue to participate in the show because it is the best place for us to organize an effective business response to the imminent threats to our public lands.

We applaud Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) for taking steps to explore other locations for the show, and recognize that Utah’s position on public lands is the most important factor in motivating them to do so. The Conservation Alliance has worked closely with OIA on public lands issues – including the effort to designate the Bears Ears National Monument – and are proud of the conservation work we have done together.

In coalition with OIA and Outdoor Alliance, we bring together business, conservation, and outdoor recreation interests to deliver a strong and unified voice for our public lands. This collaboration reflects our belief in the principle of strength in numbers; that our industry is strongest when it works together toward common goals. We collaborate because each organization brings different strengths to the coalition. Because OIA and Outdoor Alliance have full-time staff in Washington, DC, The Conservation Alliance can focus our resources on making grants to conservation projects, and engaging our member companies to support those projects with grassroots advocacy. Our respective roles complement each other, and we will need each other as we face unprecedented threats to our public lands over the next several years.

The Conservation Alliance has a 27-year history of advocating for our public lands. Protecting wild places, and preserving the integrity of our nation’s public lands system is central to our mission. We have invested millions in protecting specific places managed by the federal government, and our grants have helped protect more than 50 million acres of land, mostly in the public domain. We are inspired that our industry and member companies are passionate about public lands, and we are committed to working within our mission to ensure that they remain intact. We look forward to collaborating with our members at the July trade show to send a strong, unified message about preserving our public lands system, and the special places that lie therein.

New Political Landscape, New Challenges for Our Wild Landscapes

Y2Y Photo Credit Marla Zapach_Skitouring in Bighorn Wildland_Y2Y

As we enter 2017, we are reminded that the political landscape for conservation can change quickly, and dramatically. We spent the past eight years working with Congress and the Obama Administration to secure protections for remarkable places with poetic names: Spring Basin; Boulder-White Clouds; Hermosa Creek; the Snake River Headwaters.

Four years ago, we recognized the opportunity to work with President Obama to win new national monument designations, and intentionally funded an increasing number of organizations working to secure these monuments. Our members’ dues helped save places like the Organ Mountains, Browns Canyon, San Gabriel Mountains, and Berryessa Snow Mountain. In the final month of his Presidency, Obama designated the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, and Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada, and expanded the Cascade-Siskiyou and California Coastal national monuments in Oregon and California. Conservation Alliance funding supported each of these monument efforts. It is now time to protect our investment in public lands.

We actually don’t know much about where Donald Trump stands on conservation issues. We do know that there are members of Congress who would like to dismantle our public lands system. These lawmakers have already introduced legislation that would transfer federal lands to the states, the first step toward privatizing those lands. The same members of Congress routinely stop conservation bills from moving forward. Emboldened members of Congress are already talking about rescinding President Obama’s national monument designations, and repealing the Antiquities Act.

American voters elected Donald Trump, and gave his party majorities in both chambers of Congress. But this election was not a referendum on our public lands system. On Election Day, voters nationwide approved 68 funding measures to create more than $6 billion for parks and conservation—an 80 percent approval rate. Public lands are one of the few institutions left in our society that transcend political affiliation. They are our common ground.

Our shared commitment to public lands will be tested over the next four years, and The Conservation Alliance will take a strong stand in their defense. We will execute a two-pronged response to the new political landscape, and hope you will join us. First, we are primarily a funder of conservation organizations, and will continue to fund the most effective conservation organizations throughout North America. With our existing funding program we will make grants to win new protections wherever possible. For the first time, though, we will also fund projects that seek to preserve and defend the integrity of our public lands system. We plan to build a new “Public Lands Defense Fund”, which we will use to support organizations to keep public lands in public hands, defend our bedrock conservation laws, and preserved the national monument designations made by President Obama.

The second piece of our response will be to increase our advocacy efforts to ensure that we are doing all we can to bring the outdoor industry’s voice to bear on conservation policy and in support of our public lands system. We will add staff in 2017 to direct our advocacy efforts, and to ensure that every member company has the opportunity to participate in defending our public lands.

I am thrilled to announce that two of our founding member companies – Patagonia and The North Face – have agreed to underwrite our new advocacy position, and together, they will contribute the first $100,000 to our Public Lands Defense Fund. That means that, thanks to Patagonia and The North Face, we will be able to make roughly three grants annually to defend our public lands, and we will have added capacity to work with all of you to speak out for the wild landscapes that mean so much to us all.

Public lands are the natural “infrastructure” for outdoor recreation, and The Conservation Alliance has spent 28 years working with the conservation community to ensure that our special public lands are protected. We look forward to working with all of our members to speak out for our public lands, and to build a community of advocates that will defend those lands today, and seek new protections when the political landscape changes in the future.

  

 

Another Outdoor Retailer Winter Market Whirlwind

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The Conservation Alliance covers a lot of ground at the Outdoor Retailer trade show. We hold a board meeting, host The Conservation Alliance Breakfast, recruit new members, organize product-related fundraisers with existing members, and attempt to talk to our industry about important conservation issues. The winter show came and went earlier this month, with all of the above on our menu.

Public lands and climate change were the main topics at The Conservation Alliance Breakfast. Featured speaker Auden Schendler, Sustainability VP at Aspen Skiing Company, gave a rousing talk about why outdoor companies need to step into the fray to combat climate change. Using examples from his own experience, Schendler talked about why outdoor industry companies should help to create a social movement around climate change. “We need to act proportionately to the challenge,” Schendler said. “There is a huge business risk in not acting, and no risk in acting.”

Prior to Schendler’s talk, The Conservation Alliance responded to member concerns about how the November elections would impact our work. Board Chair Linda Balfour (Superfeet), and Executive Director John Sterling both shared thoughts on new threats to our public lands system. For years, a vocal minority in Congress has sought to transfer federal lands to the states – the first step toward privatization – and is now urging President Trump to rescind some of President Obama’s national monument designations.

We used the breakfast as an opportunityto “recruit” individuals who are motivated to stand up and speak out for our public lands by asking them to text their contact information to us. Moving forward, we will work with our colleagues at Outdoor Industry Association and Outdoor Alliance to give that list of public lands advocates meaningful actions to defend and preserve the integrity of our public lands system.

We are grateful to the many member companies – listed below –  who hosted fundraisers and other events for The Conservation Alliance during the trade show. These promotions directly support our efforts to protect North America’s wild places.

If you missed The Conservation Alliance Breakfast, you can watch the entire event on Facebook. The program begins at the 20-minute mark.

President Obama Designates Bears Ears National Monument

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President Obama designated the Bears Ears National Monument, permanently protecting 1,350,000 acres of public land in southeastern Utah. The Bears Ears landscape is home to thousands of Native American cultural sites, which inspired a coalition of tribes to band together to push for the designation. The region also boasts world-class rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, canyoneering, whitewater paddling, and skiing. By designating the Bears Ears National Monument, President Obama preserves a place where outdoor enthusiasts have the opportunity to respectfully explore a protected landscape where past and present intersect.

The centerpiece of the new monument is Cedar Mesa, a high-elevation plateau riddled with serpentine canyons that drain into the San Juan River. I first visited Cedar Mesa nearly 20 years ago, guided by a friend who was working to protect the area. I asked – naively it turns out – what threatened the place. She took me to a spot just off a well-traveled BLM road that was littered with countless sherds of pottery left by Ancestral Puebloan communities. From the many small pieces of clay, I assembled a pot in my imagination: gray clay with simple, but artistic, painted designs. I looked closely at one piece of pottery, and saw the imprint of the potter’s fingerprints in the clay. As my eyes focused, I realized that I could not walk through the area without stepping on more sherds. The cultural history of the place was on full display.

I then saw a spaghetti bowl network of vehicle tracks, remnants of ATV wheels that had churned through the area. My friend told me that there are countless sites throughout Cedar Mesa that suffered similar damage. Few regulations, limited enforcement. I felt devastated that this beautiful record of the past, integrated with a spectacular natural landscape, was at risk.

I have visited Cedar Mesa several times since; to float the San Juan River, hike canyons, and explore rock art. I came away from each visit in awe of the people who made a life off the land 1,000 years ago. I also learned about new threats to the region, including energy development, and the looting of cultural sites.

Nearly four years ago, The Conservation Alliance learned that Utah Congressman Rob Bishop wanted to develop legislation that would protect large swaths of southeastern Utah, and open equally large swaths to resource extraction. His “grand bargain”, called the Public Lands Initiative (PLI), would offer something to everyone. We funded several conservation organizations (Grand Canyon Trust, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, and The Pew Charitable Trusts) to work on the PLI, and continued to invest in that effort until late 2015. At that point, it became clear that the PLI would likely contain too many poison pills for the conservation community to swallow. Fortunately, a parallel effort, led by the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, was working to protect much of the same area as a national monument, which would not require an act of Congress. With grants to Utah Dineh Bikeyah and Friends of Cedar Mesa, we threw our support behind the monument effort.

Along the way, we found remarkable support within the outdoor business and recreation communities for the protection of the Bears Ears. We worked closely with our colleagues at Outdoor Industry Association and Outdoor Alliance to demonstrate the economic and recreation benefits of the Bears Ears region. At the Summer 2016 Outdoor Retailer trade show, an unprecedented group of CEOs held a press conference to call on President Obama to designate a Bears Ears National Monument. Business leaders from Utah and beyond spoke from the heart about the place in economic, recreation, and spiritual terms. It was a moving event.

Early in his presidency, Obama said he wanted to designate national monuments that help tell lesser-known parts of the American story. I’ve explored the Bears Ears region over the years, amazed that no school teacher ever taught me about the Ancestral Puebloans, and how they built tools and structures, farmed, and conducted rituals throughout the desert Southwest. By designating Bears Ears National Monument, President Obama shines a light on an important part of our story. We now have the opportunity to respectfully explore a protected landscape where past and present intersect.

President Obama Designates Gold Butte National Monument

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President Obama added to his significant conservation legacy by designating the Gold Butte National Monument, permanently protecting 296,937 acres of public land in southern Nevada. Gold Butte – also considered Nevada’s piece of the Grand Canyon – includes rugged mountains, Joshua tree and Mojave yucca forests, outcroppings of sandstone, and braided washes that turn into slot canyons. Native Americans have depended on this area for sustenance, medicine gathering, and spiritual use for thousands of years. Visitors can find rock art, structures, roasting pits, and pottery throughout the area.

The Conservation Alliance first supported efforts to protect Gold Butte back in 2006 when we funded Nevada Wilderness Project to develop a campaign to designate the area as Wilderness. That effort laid the groundwork for the national monument campaign that followed. Earlier this year, we supported both Friends of Nevada Wilderness and Friends of Gold Butte to build grassroots support for the monument designation.

Our friends at KEEN Footwear included Gold Butte in their Live Monumental campaign, an effort to urge President Obama to designate five national monuments before the end of his term. Founding member Patagonia has been a long-time participant in the Gold Butte effort. And Las Vegas-based Zappos hosted events to rally support for the designation. It’s always great to see our members go above-and-beyond in to push for new conservation gains.

President Obama protected Gold Butte on the same day that he designated Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. With these protections, President Obama secures an important place in the history of conservation in the United States.

We Stand By Our Land

The Conservation Alliance Board and Staff, November 2016,  Santa Barbara, CA

The Conservation Alliance board and staff gathered at the Toad&Co offices in Santa Barbara last week to hammer out a new, three-year strategic plan, and a 2017 annual operating plan. We intentionally scheduled the retreat for the week after the elections to ensure that we made our plans with a full understanding of the political landscape in which we operate. We dared to assume that one pro-conservation administration would follow another, and our work over the next three years would simply build on our efforts over the past eight. Needless to say, the election results took us by surprise.

We actually don’t know much about where Donald Trump stands on conservation and public lands issues. We do know that there are members of Congress who would like to wreak havoc on our public lands system. These lawmakers have already introduced legislation that would transfer federal lands to the states, the first step toward privatizing those lands. The same members of Congress routinely stop conservation bills from moving forward, and have threatened to gut our bedrock environmental laws. During the past four years, President Obama has regularly used his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate national monuments to protect special lands when Congress has failed to act. Emboldened members of Congress are already talking about rescinding those national monument designations, and repealing the Antiquities Act.

Make no mistake. Our public lands system is now at risk.

“Public Lands” is a painfully generic term for places that inspire so much joy and awe; places that test our abilities and teach us lessons about our place in the world. These are the lands – our National Parks, Wilderness areas, Forest Service and BLM lands – that provide the setting for our great adventures or our daily trail runs. We backpack, ski, and mountain bike on our public lands. We paddle their rivers and lakes, and climb their rocks. Sometimes we go there to simply find quiet in an ever-busier world.

I grew up exploring public lands with my family. I learned to ski and climb there. I got engaged in one National Park, and honeymooned in another. During an eight-month job transition, my wife and I spent seven months on – and under the spell of – public lands. Sound familiar? I’m guessing most people who earn a living in the outdoor industry have a similar connection to our public lands. That’s good news, because we are going to need everyone to stand up now and repeatedly over the next four years in defense of these special places.

American voters elected Donald Trump, and gave his party majorities in both chambers of Congress. But I do not believe this election was a referendum on our public lands system. Public lands are one of the few institutions left in our society that transcend political affiliation. They are our common ground.

Our shared commitment to public lands will be tested over the next four years, and The Conservation Alliance will take a strong stand in their defense. Our new strategic plan will direct us to spend more time on our advocacy efforts, engaging our member companies and their employees to demonstrate support for public lands. Our funding program will continue to support efforts to protect our last wild places, seeking creative opportunities to preserve lands and waters in a challenging political climate. But we will make an important adjustment to our funding criteria, creating a new fund to support organizations working to defend the integrity of our public lands system. We look forward to branching out into this new area of funding.

To our members, we say without equivocation that our work together has never been more important. Our alliance of outdoor businesses has helped protect more than 45 million acres of land and 2,900 river miles over the past 27 years. Our steady success speaks to our ability to be nimble as the climate for conservation changes. Your board of directors met last week, and developed a solid plan for the next three years. We look forward to working with you to implement that plan, and to ensure that the outdoor industry does all we can to preserve our most special wild places.

Save the Date! The Conservation Alliance Breakfast with Climate Change Activist Auden Schendler

Noah Howell Little Pine Wasatch UT

 

The Conservation Alliance Breakfast
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
7:00-9:00 AM
The Marriott, Salons F-I, Salt Lake City

Gnomes and Brook Trout: Meaningful Climate Solutions in a Harsh World

A Presentation by Climate Change Activist Auden Schendler 

Brook trout will lose more than three-quarters of their range in the West in the next 75 years due to climate change. Winter sports will see snowpack declines of up to half by end of century. And our next president denies that there’s a problem. But our future can still be prosperous. The outdoor industry has two choices: slowly watch our business and lifestyle disappear, or become a meaningful part of the climate solution, protecting our economies for the long term. Auden Schendler is Sustainability VP at Aspen Skiing Company and board chair at Protect Our Winters. A (mostly) reformed dirtbag and lifelong outdoorsman, he works on high leverage solutions to climate change.

Arrive tired, leave inspired!

A Tale of Two Maps: It’s Time to #ProtectBearsEarsNow

Eighty years ago, the US Department of the Interior produced a map for a proposed Escalante National Monument that would protect millions of acres of public land in Southern Utah. That vintage map has a lot in common with a more recent map that illustrates the many outdoor recreation opportunities on the proposed Bears Ears National Monument. These two maps demonstrate that the idea of protecting lands in Southern Utah is nothing new. The current proposal for the Bears Ears would protect nearly two million acres of land, preserving the area’s rich archaeological history and many outdoor recreation amenities. The maps are a good reminder that conservation can take a long time, but that good ideas generally win the day in the end. We hope that the vision DOI forwarded in 1936 finds final success in 2016.

The Conservation Alliance Board Calls on the President and Congress to Protect Public Land

Kirsten Blackburn, John Sterling, Adam Cramer, Hans Cole, Linda Balfour

The Conservation Alliance made a trip to Washington, DC last week to push Congress and the Obama Administration for new land and water protections that benefit outdoor recreation. We focused our efforts on securing new national monuments from the President, and on a package of public lands bills from the Congress. Our delegation included representatives from Patagonia, KEEN, Superfeet, REI, Outdoor Industry Association, and Outdoor Alliance.

As we near the end of President Obama’s final term, it is important that we do everything possible to secure new national monument designations. The Conservation Alliance has funded campaigns to protect the Bears Ears in Utah, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, the Grand Canyon Watershed in Arizona, Gold Butte in Nevada, the Owyhee Canyonlands in Oregon, and Birthplace of Rivers in West Virginia. We also endorse expanding the existing Cascade-Siskiyou and California Coast National Monuments in Oregon and California. In meetings with Obama Administration representatives, we delivered a letter signed by 68 member companies supporting the Bears Ears proposal.  Read the complete trip report on our blog.

We also worked closely with Outdoor Industry Association and Outdoor Alliance to develop a list of eight bills that we would like to see Congress move this year. This package of bills would protect lands and waters in Washington, Oregon, California, Montana, and Tennessee. We chose bills that face little or no opposition, and have already had at least one Congressional hearing. It is unclear from our meetings whether the Congress will try to move a package of lands bills before they adjourn later this year, but these bills would be a nice investment in conservation that benefits outdoor recreation.

Our trip coincided with the grand opening of the new REI Flagship store in Washington, DC. Our friends at REI hosted a vibrant party to show off their beautiful new store, and to talk about the company’s commitment to the greater Washington community.

This trip is likely our final visit to Washington during the Obama Administration. It has been an honor to represent our member companies in urging the federal government to manage our public lands for conservation and recreation. After the election, we will begin to build relationships with the incoming administration to ensure that public land protection continues to be a priority over the next for years, and beyond!



New Donor Program Launches with Outdoor Industry Icons

Pictured left to right: Kirk Richardson; Steve Meineke; Matt Hyde; Steve Barker; Peter Metcalf; Adam Forest; Sally McCoy; Steve Rendle; and Casey Sheahan. (Not Pictured:  Yvon Chouinard and Rory Fuerst)

The Conservation Alliance launched a new major donor program at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Salt Lake City. The Leading Edge program provides the opportunity for individuals to make a significant contribution to support The Conservation Alliance’s efforts to protect wild places throughout North America for their recreation and habitat values.

To be part of the Leading Edge, individuals must commit to contribute $5,000 annually for at least three years. Each of the initial Leading Edge donors is a long-time industry leader who has, through a lifetime of active commitment to conservation, earned the respect of the outdoor industry. Most are either founders of The Conservation Alliance, or have served on the organization’s board of directors. The initial Leading Edgers are: Yvon Chouinard; Steve and Nona Barker; Sally McCoy; Peter Metcalf; Adam Forest; Rory Fuerst; Matt Hyde; Steve Meineke; Steve Rendle; Kirk Richardson; and Casey Sheahan.

We are fortunate to have friends like these who have committed so much of their time and expertise to help build The Conservation Alliance,” said John Sterling, Conservation Alliance Executive Director. “Now we will benefit from their personal generosity.”

“I am happy to help launch the Leading Edge, support conservation, and create a stronger tradition of personal philanthropy within our industry,” said Sally McCoy, former CEO of CamelBak, and chair of The Conservation Alliance board. “Wild places are so important to the outdoor industry, and supporting The Conservation Alliance is an effective way to ensure these places are protected.”

The Leading Edge is now open to anyone who is interested in supporting The Conservation Alliance. Donors may direct their contributions to either the organization’s grant fund (to directly support conservation projects), or to the discretionary fund (to help cover The Conservation Alliance’s lean operating expenses).

“Serving on The Conservation Alliance board brought great meaning to my work in the outdoor industry, and I am honored to have the opportunity to give something back,” said Casey Sheahan, former CEO of Patagonia, and, like McCoy, chair of The Conservation Alliance board. “When industry leaders founded The Conservation Alliance in 1989, they understood that conservation is a core value for our business. The Conservation Alliance has been a remarkable steward of that value ever since.”

“Time and again, outdoor industry leaders have demonstrated a willingness to work together to advance the causes foundational to the industry,” said Sterling. “Conservation is one of those shared values, and the Leading Edge will provide a lasting vehicle for industry leaders to express their personal commitment to protecting our wild places.”

Individuals interested in participating in the Leading Edge program should contact John Sterling.

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